22nd July 2021
It’s been two and a half years since HMLTD played to a raucous crowd at the now deceased Magnet, as they were riding high on the tsunami of industry hype. Refusing to let industry hype sweep them up with an undercurrent of ‘cancelled culture’, ex-band members and being dropped by Sony, the five-piece finally released critically acclaimed ‘West Of Eden’.
While maintaining earlier themes of death and the macabre, the album moves into a more politically engaged and mature subject matter. On the advent of their debut, they arrive at Liverpool’s Art Club for the first date of their headline tour.
HMLTD are one of those artists which defy the strict pigeonholes of genre, in the same vein as Grimes or Death Grips. They take vignettes of genres with the smouldering nihilism of post-punk, the grandeur of new-wave and provocativeness of industrial. Their live shows have been just as arresting, as the tracks that form them.
The band arrived on stage around half an hour late, due to ongoing technical issues and scheduling issues. Luckily, it’s worth the wait emerging in a haze of futuristic metallics, bleached hair and admirable facial hair – it looks like they’ve raided the archive of everyone from Steps to Bauhaus. However, it’s noticeably toned down from the opulent makeup and hair colour palettes when they first emerged on the crest of the hype machine.
As a belligerent light show flashes behind them, the band dive into 2019 country-tinged, industrial pop tune ‘Loaded’. The rising tempo and fluctuating noise act as a slow dopamine injection despite the precipitation of Storm Ciara. Heads are going in the humble but loyal audience – it’s evident these are fans that have stuck them from their conception.
Frontman Henry Spychalski is a captivating mix of Bowie and Iggy Pop absorbing the attentive stare from everyone in the room. The right amount of flamboyance to prevent it from coming across as arrogant. Higher tempo older singles such as the synth-heavy ‘Proxy Love’ and RnB inspired ‘Flex’ ensue moments of pure hedonism. A small barrage of limbs are flung around the room to ‘Flex’, to which Spychalski asks for more of that.
I was sceptical about how the moodier newer material would complement the high octane older tracks, but the band weave them in seamlessly. Dropping in ‘West Is Dead’ off of their new album, it brings down the tempo, allowing for a moment of subconscious reflection. Also, it sounds like it should be on the Matrix trilogy soundtrack – this makes it even better.
Unflinching love song ‘Mikeys Song’ lets the mask of Spychalski’s contortionist showmanship slip to reveal a glimmer of vulnerability. However, this is placed firmly back on as they finish on fan favourite ‘To The Door’, a rousing neo-western circus where Spychalski is the opulent ringleader.
For many, the industry hype-machine can become a death sentence, but HMLTD have managed to manoeuvre it into a death drive to produce an energetic, yet sincere project. ‘West Of Eden’ must be experienced in the live setting of their death drive disco.